WASHINGTON: Negotiators at the Iran nuclear talks have once again extended the deadline for concluding a deal, giving themselves another day to finalise the agreement.
The latest deadline expired on Monday night, but the US media quoted senior officials as saying that they might reach a deal by Tuesday.
When the negotiators resumed the 17th day of their marathon talks earlier Monday, the deal looked so close that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted congratulations to his team on reaching an agreement, but then deleted the tweet.
On Monday afternoon, US Secretary of State John F. Kerry had an hour-long meeting with foreign ministers of the six nations that are negotiating the deal with Iran. He then held another hour-long meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
After the talks, officials from five of the six nations known collectively as the P5+1 — Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany — told reporters that the deal could still be reached by Monday night and American diplomats also distributed logistics information to US journalists covering the negotiations about the choreography of events after an announcement.
But a senior state department official later clarified that some “major issues” remained and that’s why they did not expect an agreement by Monday night.
In Washington, the US media reported that going beyond midnight on Monday would require a 2013 interim deal to be rolled over for the fourth time in a fortnight, to keep a freeze on sanctions and the Iranian nuclear programme in place.
Under the expected settlement, Iran will accept curbs on its nuclear programme in exchange for extensive sanctions relief. Tehran would also have to subject its facilities to a more rigorous inspections regime.
After the announcement the deal would go to the US Congress for approval. Since Republicans have a majority in Congress and have pledged to vote against the deal, it will not be easy to persuade them to change their minds.
But it will not be easy for Congress either to undo the deal as President Barack Obama can still veto their vote. Republicans will then need support from 12 Democrats to have 67 votes needed to override a presidential veto.
Congress will have two months to review the agreement, and then an extra 22 days are set aside for the rest of the process.
At the same time, Iran’s parliament, the Majlis, will study the deal and issue its own verdict, but has no firm timetable.
The agreement will then be incorporated in a UN Security Council resolution to lift UN sanctions on Iran.
Published in Dawn ,July 14th, 2015